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Human Factors

Human Factors

18 Jul 11:00 by Julie McEwan

The human factor at work as Next Phase Recruitment team Steve Twinley, Brian Tappy and Jimi Cazot try to construct the new office environment

They say a picture paints a thousand words and in this vein the photograph above brilliantly illustrates the focus for this week’s blog. Human Factors.

Now I suspect that when the designer at Ikea began work on this wonderful piece of flat pack furniture they failed to realise that it would ultimately find its way to our office and to Jimi, Steve and Brian. Their three different perspectives and approaches to DIY where probably very far from his/her mind and it was deemed that the accompanying instructions would be more than adequate. Seems reasonable and I am sure at some point said furniture will be constructed as designed and fully functioning.

But what are the implications of human factors for medical devices? After all what good is an innovative device that is reliable, efficient and safe if the patient/surgeon that it is designed for cannot actually use it? Human factors are an important part of the product development process and should be considered early on in design to avoid costly and time rich solutions being introduced in the final stages of manufacture and validation.

So what factors are included in this process?

The user and their particular requirements/preferences are at the very top of this list. The condition that the device is treating will provide obvious clues. For example does the disease impact on the patients vision, their ability to follow cognitive processes or the use of their hands? It is possible for an individual drug to be administered in a variety of ways and this should be considered – is the digital screen too small for someone with vision impairment to read correctly – is the mixing procedure or administration process too long and involved to be performed correctly by the patient? Do they have the manual dexterity to hold the device in the correct position long enough for the dose to be administered in full or will the colours selected for the function buttons be able to be deciphered by someone suffering from colour blindness?

In the case of surgical instruments the preferences of surgeons and healthcare professionals should also be carefully considered. The instruments grip, the hand and even which finger is being used to perform very intricate and high risk movements during procedures needs to be evaluated and addressed.

Adequate and thorough training is also very important for all users, whether patient or HCP’s, to ensure the device is used safely and performs the function it is designed to.  This may also include continuing support from the manufacturer and feedback provided whilst overseeing use of the device to ensure continuing best practice.

Perhaps the most important consideration is for manufacturers and medical device developers to work closely together with human factors consultants in an open and honest way, whilst being aware and appreciative of the demands placed on each other.  

After many years of design and development the partial or complete over haul of a device may be necessary to make improvements to end user efficiency but is unlikely to be well received by those at the heart of the project. Similarly human factors can be viewed as inconsequential and ignored – having a large impact on device success in the market place. By working together bottlenecks in production can be halted and projects can, hopefully, remain or schedule and on budget (well as close as humanly possible).

The consequences of ignoring this partnership surely only leads to poorer performing devices and those which have a very limited window of sustainability in this innovative and ever evolving industry.

More Blogs from Julie McEwan

Julie has written numerous interesting and well researched blogs on a wide range of topics related to Medical Devices and Human Factors.  Please click here to read more of Julie's blogs and here to find out more about Julie.